Summer’s Second Act

Summer’s Second Act

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



august 1st
~birthdays are holy days, the sacred aperture of the soul’s entry on the earthly plane. which brings to mind my friend Paul, born today, on the pagan celebration of the turning point of summer, the beginning of the harvest season–a time of year which deserves high praise from me for all that’s been received…

my son Aidan, my first kiss with my husband, our move to Vermont, the last day of our summer backpacking honeymoon adventure across Europe, our firstborn…

And before the wheel turns to Autumn, the birthday of my beloved & the return to spirit of my mother on the same date

and in between and before the season’s turning–the holy apertures of nieces & nephews, in-laws, & grandmothers, uncles & friends, my baby sister, my father, and the honorable 44th President of the United States of America.

And then there’s the fruit, the tomato, the cornflower, the pumpkin, the blueberry.

All these outrageous acts we gather in abundance for the leaner seasons.

~

august 6~

I love Mondays. The chance to start again. To get it right.

I hate August. “A month of Sundays.”
As a result, I’m often angry.
A reminder that I need to grieve.

Advertisements
Co-op Killing Anniversary

Co-op Killing Anniversary

Photo: i Brattleboro, C. Grotke

That’s a disturbing title, I know; and I hate to bring it up, but I know it’s there inside all of us, waiting to be expressed.

Anniversaries are like that. They come whether we want them to or not. Especially first anniversaries. Especially when a loved one is lost.

August 9 is the day that Richard brought a gun to work

How apropos that the old Co-op is being demolished as this anniversary approaches. What if we each threw something into the wreckage that we no longer wanted: guns, unresolved anger, bitterness?

I wonder how the Co-op will mark the anniversary? I know it will be a day full of anguish for the family of Michael Martin. I know that the days leading up to the anniversary will be particularly hard. I can already feel it in my own body.

What about Richard? What will his body relive of that day? What choices might he wish differently?

Would he do it all over again?

Would he get “help”?

What about the rest of us?

If you haven’t experienced the anniversary of a deep loss, then know that it takes its toll. Drink lots of water. Get a massage. Talk to a friend. Plant something beautiful–in the ground, in your life, in a relationship. Breath.

Breath.

Breath.

With love,

Kelly

Even the Potatoes Are Sad

Weak in the Knees

Weak in the Knees

detail, Turner, visipix.com

I can’t concentrate at work. Each day I am more tired.  And even though I am eating right, getting exercise, spending time in quiet, I’m feeling the toll of so many days of angst.

Today, I drive through West Brattleboro, for the first time since the flood, and I am surprised, and almost sickened, to see edges of black top missing, dangling into run off, yellow line and all.

I haven’t been on Route 9 since the days I walked it with dozens of other neighbors to take in the devastation; and this neglect of Western Avenue leading to Route 9 brings the trauma of that pilgrimage back.

“Road Closed,”says the sign at the base of the road, and so I turn my car around, and then  roll down my window to check in with another driver who looks perplexed.

“What am I supposed to do?” he says.  “When I came down from the college to go to the store, that sign wasn’t there.”

“You know the back way, don’t you?” I ask. And he shakes his head ; so I say, “Follow me.”

I always feel better when I help someone. It gets me out of myself, and channels my grief into something that moves, instead of puddles.

It hadn’t occurred to me when I decided to head toward Route 9 that I was avoiding Ames Hill. Though I’d driven back and forth on it a few times already, I had always been a passenger–like I had been the night that we tried to make it home to Marlboro during the flooding.

Ames Hill was nightmarish then, with only a single, rugged lane, flanked by deep caverns beneath the jagged edges where the road had been eaten away.

Once we made the decision to proceed, there was no turning back or pulling over; and if we abandoned our car, which I would have liked to do, emergency vehicles wouldn’t have been able to get through.

But I wasn’t thinking about any of this. I was making sure that the young man in the van with out of state plates was following me–past Lilac Ridge with the bright sunflowers, and around the turn to head up toward the Robb Family Farm where the cows used to moo.

It was then that my body began to re-live the tension of that nightmare ride home, even though there was a boy playing ball on the lawn in the afternoon light instead of a car dangling over a deep ditch in the dark.

I noticed my stomach tighten, without any thoughts, and I realized that my body had some more letting go to do, even if my mind didn’t.

I tried to get onto Route 9 this morning too, but there was work going on, and I didn’t want to interrupt it, so I turned around and took the long way again.

As I passed the post office, I realized that it had been days since we fetched the mail, and so I stopped, and heard how Marshall spent three hours trying to get to work last week, and finally headed back home to Brattleboro, where he took a long walk with his wife, and saw all kinds of unusual things in the water: propane tanks bobbing, an actual car, and even a house, upside down, floating like a boat on its attic.

Perhaps we need to get my friend Susie and other artists to create a large canvass upon which we can all release what we have seen.

Another Lisa took a trip down the Augur Hole yesterday to help Peggy move back in, and Lisa’s stricken face said more than any words to describe what it was to see that road missing, and the wide, rocky stream bed that was now it its place.

I haven’t been to Wilmington, but having lived there for several years, I feel a strong kinship to that community. I can’t imagine what it must be to see the devastation downtown.

As I climbed the stairs to second floor office this morning, my legs were heavy with this grief–and that of Texas, and of Japan, and I noticed that the flood had carved out much more room inside of me for compassion, and that it was taking more energy than I was used to giving.

And then there’s today’s murder at the IHOP in Nevada which brings back the grief of our own killing at the Brattleboro Co-op; which is a sour place to end this post, leaving me weak in the knees.

And yet, as I come down MacArthur Road, past John’s place, and Jason’s apple trees, and Gail’s berries, and Robin’s sky, I notice that the sun, though hidden by the clouds, is shimmering its way through in a perfect offering of light.

Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, VT

For more on Irene and VT, click here.

Tuesday, again

Tuesday, again

In exactly two weeks, “BFC Tragedy” climbs its way to the top of the list of writing topics on the sidebar of this Vermont blog–from a tiny thing at the bottom, to where it sits now–boldface, beside the prominent category of “Autumn.”

In retrospect, I wish I’d tagged this collection “BFC Healing” instead of “tragedy,” but at the time I never imagined that so much compassion would flow from murder.

Two weeks.

Doesn’t it seem like a lifetime passed since the Co-op mutated from haven to hell in an instant?

Somehow I find myself back here on a Tuesday; and this time it’s definitely easier; though I’m taken aback to see a baby in the cafe.  A baby.

Earlier this afternoon I passed tourists at the corner of Elliott and Main–two moms and a young son looking for a place to eat. I recommended the Co-op; and then wondered if I’d made a mistake.  If I was visiting, would I want to take my kids there?

I’ve left my own kids at home, but my husband has accompanied me again. I watch with tenderness as he approaches one Co-op staffer after another to offer an embrace or a pat on the shoulder.

I feel too shy to do the same, and wish I could wear a button that says, “I gave at my blog.”

“At least go see Tony in the wine department,” my husband says, over a bowl of soup.

Instead I suggest that I come back with cookies or candy–something easier to share than sentiment.

Perhaps the staff has grown weary of compassion anyway, I argue internally.  Maybe they’re trying to move on.  But the truth is that my biggest concern is that they would feel that we’ve moved on–without them.

Whenever I’m faced with uncertainty around connecting with those in grief, I think back to my friend Trish whose 18 year old brother was killed in an accident the summer we all worked together at the shore.  Everyone at the Crab House was heartbroken, but they avoided talking about Tommy so as not to make it harder on Trish.

Finally I asked her. “Does it make it worse when I talk about him?”

“No,” she answered. “I couldn’t feel any worse, and he’s on my mind all the time.”

Maybe it’s that way for everyone at the Co-op. Maybe this tragedy is always on their minds whether we acknowledge it or not.

I wonder how long it will take until I walk into that store and it’s no longer on mine.

Kelly Salasin, August 23, 2011

For more on BFC Tragedy, click here.

(ps. As I was leaving the Co-op, I saw those two moms and their young son, and they thanked me for the “great recommendation.”)

Feeling Worse about Feeling Better

Feeling Worse about Feeling Better

Neer, detail, visipix.com

Almost two weeks has passed since the tragedy that took place in our community Co-op, and I hate to admit this, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. Grief continues to arrive in waves, but with the tide of the news receded, it no longer floods my days.

It feels good to be relieved of the burden of shock, but is that truly a good thing? Is surrendering to murder akin to accepting it, to tolerating it, to allowing it to become a norm?

I know that I cannot go through my days somber and distraught, but how can I shop in my grocery store without feeling the bloodshed spilled there? Won’t I be dishonoring the man whose life was stolen when I talk to friends in the aisles as if it never happened?

I’ve only been back to the Co-op once since the shooting, and since I’m going out of town again this week, I can put off returning until September.

Is that a good thing?

Will I ever feel the same about my Co-op? Do I want to?

How do I reconcile feeling better when Michael Martin’s family grieves forever?

It’s not just the Co-op that’s tainted from this murder. My own community of Marlboro is too. Last night I stood under the stars with friends at an annual summer party, but I couldn’t get our neighbor, Richard Gagnon, out of my head.

When I pulled into the pond this morning for brunch, I cringed at the thought of the tennis courts where Richard played with his wife; and later that afternoon, I cringed again, when I thought I saw him walking across the beach with two friends.

Am I afraid of Richard? Of someone like Richard? Or am I simply traumatized by the fact that someone among us carried out such an act? That someone else could?

For the first time ever, murder is a topic at our family dinner table. “Are you talking about Richard?” My eleven year old asks. “No,” I reply. “We’re talking about the other murder.”

The other murder.

How is that phrase spoken in our home?  That we can talk about it at all feels good, because until now it hurt too much to admit that it had crept into our world.

Maybe that is why we all walk down the aisles of the grocery store, or gather at the pond, or under the stars without saying much about the crushing loss we must accept if we are to endure.

Kelly Salasin, August 21, 2011

For more on the BFC Tragedy, click here.

Dear Richard,

Dear Richard,

Dear Richard,

Despite the truth that you have stolen something precious from ALL of us, I grieve for YOU.

Though I have been wronged many times in my life, and never chosen murder, still–I ache for you.

You must have lost your mind and your heart and your soul to proceed the way you did.

No doubt “the issues” that provoked you triggered some unhealed trauma inside of you.

Your vision must have narrowed so tightly around an “enemy” that you did not see Michael’s new wife Jennifer, or the rest of his family, or the rest of his days.

But what about your co-workers? What about Ian who spoke with you just before you entered Michael’s office? 

What of Diane who found you out back behind the Co-op after the shooting?

What about all your fellow staff members present that morning?

What about all of us who have ever worked at the Co-op, or shopped there?

Did you want to rob us all as well?

Did you know that your act would be felt as far away as Thailand, and in every co-op around the country?

Did you know that you would steal sleep from strangers, summer vacation days from children,
romantic getaways from couples?

Did you want blood spilled in the place that has fed so many so well?

As I read the expressions of support on the Co-op’s Facebook page, I am stunned by how many people have been affected by your choice. I don’t think any of us, including you, could have imagined it so.

Because I don’t know Michael, it is  you for whom I grieve when I see you in the courtroom, locked in shackles, instead of on the tennis court at South Pond with a racket in your hand.

And what about Meg?

You must have considered your beloved.

Michael Martin lost his life, but you lost… everything.

You have given it up to rage.

You have given up your wife, your community, your sense of who you are and who you can be.

My eleven year old now knows a murderer. He has collected the balls that you have hit into the water where he swims.

Last night as I tucked him into bed, 300 miles away from you, he said,

“Mom, Vermont doesn’t have the death penalty, right?”

______________

Kelly Salasin, August 11, 2011

whose sons have been lifelong Co-op members

This is the second post on the Brattleboro Food Co-op tragedy, click here for others.